Should we be surprised that Tim Burton was named as president of the judges of the 63rd edition of the Cannes festival?
General delegate Thierry Frémaux explained this choice, saying that he was selected because he “stands mid-way between cinéma d’auteur (art-house cinema), popular cinema and genre films.”
The festival thus promises to be diverse, as demonstrated by the selection of films for this year’s awards. There is only one nominated American film (Fair Game by Doug Liman, featuring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts) facing nominees such as Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu (director of Babel) and Takeshi Kitano (director of Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence), and competition from a range of different nations like Iran, Hungary, Korea and Ukraine.
The emphasis is on the international aspect of the festival, offering what seems to be a rather dark portrait of humanity. Corruption in society through war, nuclear weapons or sociological relations, seems to be the underlying theme. It is treated with both sensitive poetry and destabilising crudeness.
Social awareness has even leapt out of the screen. Tim Burton explained in his interview that an empty chair was reserved symbolically for Jafar Panahi, last member of the jury, imprisoned in Iran since March 1st for trying to make a film on the much debated 2009 Iranian elections. For Burton, this highlights the fact that the festival is indeed a celebration of our precious freedom of expression and that this should be defended at all costs.
Encouraging and cultivating that freedom, the Cannes festival has even inaugurated a new category of awards for this edition, baptized “Cannes Courts” (“Cannes Short”), honouring short films by young and unknown directors. Diversity is therefore also present in the amount of expertise of the artists parading on the red carpet, as new, budding directors mix with experienced ones.
The festival opened on Wednesday 12th May with the much awaited (but un-nominated) blockbuster Robin Hood, featuring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett, who made an appearance behind their sunglasses to answer a few questions.
The glamour of the festival, celebrated by movie icons and the spectators alike, is definitely buzzing in the air, as awe-inspiring dresses are worn, and the paparazzi cluster together in flashing bunches trying to capture the atmosphere of excitement and expectation.
The judges are looking forward to being surprised, and want first and foremost to keep an open mind, their president explained. We shall see what the outcome of those thoughts might be later this week.